- Vol. 08
- Chapter 12
Martin and me
When Martin the metal dectorist brought home the rusty key and showed it to Eveline, his wife, she became unexpectedly animated. His new patch was in the grounds of the old manor house, down in the valley beyond the village. Hardly anybody strayed that way, afraid of ghosts perhaps, of quiet spaces, damp and mossy, but Martin had found a route through the woods and over the crumbling wall of the kitchen garden and he wasn’t deterred. He’d heard rumours of an ancient burial site in the gardens of the Georgian manor. Most people dismissed it, because of the proximity to the river, but Martin wasn’t so sure. Rivers changed courses, didn’t they? The house had been unlived in for years, the windows shuttered, weeds on the gravel drive. I say unlived, but there’s me, of course.
That day, when Martin presented Eveline with the key, a grand flourish, a little out of character, changed our lives forever. Eveline, a pinched little woman, greatly disappointed by marriage, insisted the key must belong to the house. It was heavy, old, and when she rubbed the dirt off with her sleeve, there was the dull gleam of brass.
‘You must go back,’ she said. ‘There’s bound to be stuff. Don’t take the van, you can’t be seen, so just find the most valuable bits. My brother can sell them.’
Martin argued, the key sat on the table, days went by. It was no use. Martin capitulated.
He entered the house just before dawn, as the night sky turned shades of mauve and the palest pink. He remembered thinking he’d never seen it so beautiful and his fear fell away. The door did not creak, bats did not fly in his face, ghosts did not claw his throat. The house was furnished, sparsely rather than extravagantly. He admired a display of family photographs, picked up and replaced an onyx paperweight, ran his finger along a spine of
Martin and me
books. He wondered a little about the family who never came and why, but not too much, as that was not how his mind worked. Then I showed myself.
I’d been watching Martin for months, knew the sound of his footfall, the sigh he made when he straightened his back, how he chewed his bottom lip. He didn’t seem surprised to see me. He asked me my name, gave me a toffee to suck, wiped dirt from my cheeks. Do you have any people? He asked and I shook my head, even though it wasn’t true. Martin told me I was precious and took me home. His wife remained pinched and unhappy, her brother could hardly sell a ten year old girl on Ebay, but she allowed me to stay and even grew fond of me, in her own way. Martin was always kind, always called me his treasure. He never asked how I ended up in the old manor. I slipped into my new life as easily as I slipped out of my old one.