Here’s another instalment from my unfinished story, The Button. Clare has moved to Easthope where she unexpectedly bumps into someone she was at school with, someone who bullied her mercilessly. The woman, Jenny-Lee recognises her but for some reason mistakes her for another girl called Clare who was Jenny’s best friend. Jenny and her husband Darius are restoring an old watermill.
Flight of Fancy
It was quite by chance that Clare pulled into the little boatyard at Westope. She’d been driving at random, it was too nice a day to stay in but she couldn’t really decide what she wanted to do… She wasn’t in the mood for the beach, or the town, and walking in Camel Woods would draw her towards the watermill… and she didn’t want to go back there. She had no desire to ever meet Jenny-Lee and Darius again.
She’d been driving west along the coast road and had seen a sign which said coffee, ices, toilets… which seemed perfect. She pulled off the road and drove down into the parking area. There was an ice-cream van, a toilet block and a little shop. Well, she might visit all three.
Although it was so sunny there’d been a chill wind but now it had swung round and was warm and pleasant. She left her car, bought a cornet and wandered towards the sea. The beach here was empty apart from a few families sitting on towels, children in the water most of them in wet suits. She walked along and then climbed a few yards into the sand dunes and sat, enjoying the sun and finishing her ice-cream.
She lay back after a while and dozed… strange scraps of dream floated, Jenny-Lee, Darius Mapp, the Button… and Clare Cherry, Clare Cherry was standing staring at her, sad, upset, almost accusing and hurt, hurt…
Clare sat up. Clare Cherry… They’d been best friends at their previous school, Clare had been small and dark, Clare Cherry tall and dark – they could have been sisters separated by a few years, instead they were friends the same age. And then they’d changed school and Jenny-Lee had become Clare Cherry’s best friend.
“Why are you upset? You left me? You became best friends with Jenny…” Clare spoke aloud, still half in the dream where Clare Cherry was looking at her, disappointed…
There was no-one around but she felt foolish. She stood and brushed the sand from her jeans and wandered back towards the carpark. The wind had changed again and it was too cool to sit.
She became aware of the evocative clanking of the halyards of the boats in the boatyard. The gate was wide open and she wandered in. It had once been a dream to have a boat, a child’s dream inspired by Swallows and Amazons, Treasure Island, The Riddle of the Sands… Before she and Clare had moved, their fathers’ work relocating, they’d often walked and cycled beside the river, taking picnics with them, cheese rolls and jam sandwiches and squash in bottles.
She hadn’t thought of this early part of her childhood for a long time, the blight and horror of the other school clouding her memories.
What happened to Clare Cherry? Where did she go? Clare had left that school after year eleven and gone to a sixth form college in another town – the hour and a half journey worth it so she never saw any of them again.
Now as she wandered among other people’s dreams, the boats they had bought to go adventuring but had left abandoned in the boatyard, she thought back to those cycle rides beside the river. Sometimes they left the bikes at home and walked…They would pretend that one of the houseboats or launches was theirs and they planned where to go and what to call it. In their childish minds they had crossed seas and oceans and found desert islands and adventure.
Beyond the small boatyard office was another yard with boats for sale and smiling to herself at her memories, Clare went to have a look and pretend she could afford one… well maybe she could, but she wouldn’t.
There was a small launch, a cabin cruiser, definitely quite old and quite cheap – compared to the others and it looked just like… Clare’s mind was suddenly full of a particular memory which she’d forgotten since she was twelve. She and Clare Cherry had seen the cabin cruiser they were going to buy in their dreams, it was old and needed some love but they imagined what colour they would paint it, imagined what covers they would have on their bunks, what they would cook on the little stove they imagined inside.
It was totally foolish, but Clare went back to the boatyard office. A friendly young woman knew the little boat she was describing.
“I didn’t even see what the name was on the front,” Clare said.
“Bow, the name is on the bow!” And they both laughed.
“Here we are, a bargain, £2,700 but they might take an offer, it’s been for sale quite a while… over a year now.”
She handed Clare a sheet with a picture of the boat and its details… The Flight of Fancy…
Clare thought her heart stopped for a moment. Surely this couldn’t be the same one, surely it couldn’t? The boat she and Clare had loved was The Flight of Fancy…
The young woman was telling her about it… it was eighteen years old, so no… no, it wasn’t hers and Clare’s boat which had been on the river in her childhood… but it was… it was what? Creepy? Spooky? Or just a coincidence which told her to buy the little cruiser?
“If you are interested, I can give the owners a call?”
“Yes, yes, I think I might be…”
“They’re local people, Jenny and Darius Mapp.”