The House and the Wood: Was I imagining things?

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 and renovate  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. He goes off with them one day without telling her, and refuses to say where he’s been on his return but seems quiet and out of sorts. However, after an evening in the local pub and he seems back to his normal self.

We had a week of rain and I think we both felt trapped and went down to the village to the pub several times. We didn’t see Martin and Julie again, but the landlady was marginally more friendly and a couple of times the dark haired plumber Tony sat with us and said he’d nearly finished whatever ‘the big job’ that he’d been doing was and would come over and do some of our radiators. Central heating, what a luxury! The places we’d lived in until we got our little inheritance had been perishingly cold with just gas fires or worse, electric fires! One place had only one fire, a two-bar, and we carried it around from room to room!
Because our house was so remote we had no gas, so we’d settled for storage heaters, even though we knew they weren’t ideal.  We were talking about these storage heaters when a glass of beer was set down on our table and the ginger bearded carpenter joined us.
“You need Ratty to get your chimneys swept, then you could have proper fires – you have plenty of timber to keep you going!” he said gruffly, as if arguing with us – but I guessed that was just his manner of speech.
Who was Ratty? Ratty was the chimney sweep of course. He lived next door to the carpenter who may have been Nick or Mick, and Nick/Mick would give him a bit of a knock tomorrow and tell him. He’d be in the pub tomorrow night as there was a darts match against Little Hebdon and he was on the team.
Driving home we chatted excitedly about open fires – and back up storage heaters, and how lovely that would be and in keeping with the house! I’d been on coke again so I was driving and I must say I felt happier than I had for a while. I guess there’s bound to be tensions with any couple when they’re taking on a project like this, and also we were away from our usual friends, our people, and just being stuck together no wonder we were getting a bit ratty with each other… ratty, Ratty the chimney sweep! And I smiled as I waited for Lol to get back in the car after closing our gates, the wipers thunking back and forth clearing the rain from the windscreen.
I leaned forward, peering through the dark, the headlights diluted in what had become a downpour. I was sure I’d seen something move across the track. Was it a deer? I hadn’t seen any, but it was too big to be a badger or a fox, how exciting, deer!
Lol got back in, laughing at the soaking he’d received and just as I was in the middle of telling him about the deer he shouted for me to stop and I jammed on the brakes but he was out of the car before I’d stopped.
He left the door open and disappeared – had he seen the deer? What was going on, had he suddenly felt sick? What was happening? I could see nothing – what had he seen? Should I get out and go and find him?
He jumped back in, glistening with wet.
“Drive on!” he exclaimed sharply, “Drive on!”
“What happened, what did you see? Where did you go?” I asked as I put the car into gear rather roughly so we lurched forward.
“Nothing, there wasn’t anything!” he was panting slightly.
“Was it a deer? I thought I saw a deer!”
“Deer? A deer? What? – oh, yes, a deer, I thought I saw a deer, come on, hurry, I’m soaking!”
I asked if he was alright, and yes he almost snapped, he was fine, wet and desperate for a pee. I jokingly said he could have peed in the woods, but he didn’t reply, just looked out of the side window, and for no reason, my sense of anxiety and worry returned. Was Lol alright? Was he having some sort of breakdown? Was anything the matter, or was I imagining things?

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