Elizabeth ran down Market Street and turned into Cotton Row. She needed to be quick -– super quick. Her mother knew exactly how long it should take her to do the errand. Even if there was a queue in the Co-op it should not take more than twenty minutes, any longer and she would be straight after her.
She looked up at the grey stone building. All the previous times she had passed it she had never paid it much attention. Funny that, because the building looked just like something out of a fairytale. It was so easy to imagine Rapunzel sitting at the turreted window.
From where Elizabeth stood, she could clearly see two entrances. She much preferred the grand entrance with the door that looked as though it belonged to a castle, but her granddad had specifically said that she should go in the side one.
Elizabeth was fascinated by the stained glass in the window of the side entrance door. She could make out angels, flowers and animals. She wished she had the time to look at it in more detail but she didn’t have a second to spare. Breathless she rushed inside.
Elizabeth stared hard. The man standing before her looked like a real live angel! He even sounded like tiny chimes; she was positive that the vague tinkling she could hear was coming from him. She studied him closely. His long blond hair fell loosely to his shoulders, like Prince Charming in her storybooks at home. This must be the “Tash fellow” her granddad had told her she might see. She continued to stare wide eyed and panic started to rise in her. There was no way she was going to get the words out in time, make it to the shop, and make it back home again. There was no way!
“Don’t be frightened,” Tashriel said, walking towards her. I don’t bite. He smiled and Elizabeth continued to stare. She felt him touch her on the shoulder.
“Is that better?”
“Yes, thank you,” she heard herself say, gasping for breath. “I’ll have to be quick, I’ve only got ten minutes to tell you and I have got to get to the shop and back home. I think I’ve used nine minutes already! My mum will go mad if I’m late back and...,” she stopped for breath as he raised his hand.
“No need to worry, Elizabeth, there is plenty of time. I promise you that you will be home with minutes to spare.”
Elizabeth blinked several times and continued staring. He really was very pretty.
“So, now that we know why you are here, and...”
“But I haven’t told you yet!” Elizabeth interrupted. “I’ve got a message for you from me granddad and...”
“Yes I know,” Tashriel replied softly. “I knew what your message was as soon as you came in and I asked a friend of mine to go and fetch your granddad and meet us both here. We’ve been searching for your granddad for a long time and now he has found us again. He’s waiting for us with my friend Stanley in another room. Come with me.” He held his hand out to her and Elizabeth placed her small one within it. “Let’s go and join them and have some tea.”
Lady Mabel Theawicke watched as the child and Tashriel left the red reception room at RoYds.
“It will be for the best if you stay away from Elizabeth from now on,” she remarked, looking sternly at the man sitting in front of the fireplace with Stanley.
Billy nodded. He could still feel the weight of the child on his lap where she had been sitting earlier. It was almost like she had left a little imprint on his presence. He sighed. He liked the kid, she had done him a big favour, but he didn’t need her any more. Besides, he had to go back before midnight. That was the bargain with Annwn and he had no choice but to stick with it.
“So, you have no idea what happened to your body, only that it’s somewhere in the dell?” Stanley asked, passing Billy a cigarette and lighting it for him.
Billy inhaled deeply.
By heck that’s grand
“Should imagine so,” replied Billy offhandedly looking off into space and then back at Stanley. “I’m not mithered, you know. It makes no difference to me. Unless some freaking hopper’s running about in it! I shouldn’t imagine it though? You would have heard about that by now if they was, wouldn’t you?”
“Well then, best it stays where it is. It’s obviously well hidden. I’ve no need for it either. I suspect after all these years the earth has already reclaimed it. Best thing all round if you ask me.”
“So,” Stanley said, sitting forward in his seat. “This Gorgeous George bloke knocked you on the side of the head with some kind of object and that was it? No light, eh? And the next thing you know you are wandering around the dell twenty years later?”
“That’s about it,” Billy answered, taking a final drag on his cigarette and throwing it into the fire.
“He died in an accident if I remember correctly,” Lady Mabel looked across to Stanley for confirmation.
“Yes, he did. Car crash I think... Obviously, we took a great deal of interest in that outfit after your disappearance, Billy. We knew something had happened to you and that the answers lay with the Living. Never able to get to the bottom of it, mind you. The conclusion was that you had gone directly into the light.”
“Aye, well who knows! Probably would have done, given half the chance! Anything would have been a damned site better than that place I ended up in!” Billy shivered and gazed blankly at his knees. Stanley reached out and patted his shoulder.
“I remember he married Cora Woods and they had quite a handful of children. They seemed to be a good match as far as I could,” announced Lady Mabel as much to herself as anyone else.
“Well, thankfully all that’s over now and a new dawn has begun.” quipped Stanley cheerfully.
Billy looked up and directed his question at Lady Mabel. “Elizabeth told me that...my...Anne died in 1952?”
“Yes, that’s correct,” replied the Lady Mabel, walking over to him, her long grey skirts rustling.
“Did she...did she ever marry again?”
The mask of Lady Mabel’s normally emotionless face cracked a little and her cornflower blue eyes held those of Billy’s firmly. “No. Anne never loved any man but you, Billy.”
Billy wiped away budding tear drops from his own eyes with the back of his hand.
“Aye. I loved her and all that,” he sobbed and then faded away.
Labels: 1960s, Billy, Elizabeth, Refuge of Delayed Souls, Web Fiction