Amber and the Town of Bright

Amber Rose Smith stood in front of the derelict garden.  Behind the weeds, rubbish and broken bottles stood a tall, grand old dame of a house.  There was a ground level with a veranda, the sagging tin roof hinted at foundation issues and expenses but Amber was not concerned about that.  Looking past the veranda and the curtain of future costs, the old weatherboard house stood silvered and tired in the morning sun. Any old paint had long since flown away on the wind and the house’s weathered look lent to the neglected air of the place.

Most potential buyers had been turned off by the exterior, but not Amber.  She had a strict budget for her first house and well honestly, not much choice, she hadn’t wanted to touch any of the capital in her business. She’d worked so hard to build up the capital and if the demand dried up for translations, she had nothing left.  Her business was the only thing of value that she owned.  The other several houses she had looked at had been in dreadful areas, areas that were full of run down houses, featureless scrub and had this incredible feeling of despair about them.

Amber Rose was not buying in an area like that.  She’d had enough of despair.  This move, this shift, it was her last one.  This move, this shift, it was about thumbing her nose at the world and screaming softly, she had made it.  Little Amber Rose had started life with nothing and no one and she had made it.

This house, this grand dame was in an area where people’s problems were kept behind their own doors.  Appearances were maintained and gardens did exist.  “The worst house in the best street” was what the real estate had called the house.  Amber had no choice but to agree.

What had surprised her and the real estate agent was that the inside of the house had parts that were usable.  The first floor contained a living room that was completely filled with magazines, and newspapers, a dining room that held broken furniture and more magazines and newspapers with the addition of the suggestion of books and then surprisingly a clean and tidy bedroom, an ensuite that was only a little gunky and a kitchen, all of which looked like it was only about thirty years old, compared to the floorboards in the hallway between the rooms which, when they could be seen had the varnish worn off them.

Upstairs, it was reported that there were another three bedrooms and a full bathroom all containing old clothes, the pervading smell of mice, dead furniture, a collection of what could only be described as crap.  A building inspector had used a long ladder to see in through dusty windows.  No one had been able to get up to the attic but the building inspector had said that the roof needed replacing soon but not immediately, the foundations around the veranda needed replacing but other than that, the house appeared to be sound, based highly on what he could see, which was not much.  But enough for Amber.  She’d learned never to rely on anyone.  She could throw out decades of grime, she could scrub windows and paint walls and she could pay for experts when she needed to.

The house had gone to auction, it’s the previous owner died without a will or any relatives that could be traced.  Apparently, he had been an orphan.  It was, Amber Rose thought, something of symmetry because she had been abandoned outside the home of an older man who had spent his life caring for those that no one else wanted to even foster.  She’d been mostly luck in the lottery of foster homes getting way more good places than bad, until her teens when things had gone south.

Amber pulled her gloves out of her recently purchased second-hand ute, she grabbed the extra strength tough bags, designed to withstand everything and she pushed open the reluctant gate, it didn’t so much squeal in protest but put up a battle.  She’d be leaving the gate open for now.  Firstly though, she started picking up all the rubbish off what passed for a driveway.  The skip for the rubbish would have to go somewhere, and the driveway would be out of the road as much as possible.  It wasn’t like there was much crime in the town of Bright.

Amber paused and wiped the sweat from her forehead with her shirt leave.  Her phone buzzed and she pulled it out of her pocket. She checked the time on her phone and ignored the message.  She’d emailed all her regular clients that she was taking time off.  Perhaps she could shout herself a more up to date phone now she was a homeowner, have one for her personal life and one for the business.  Amber looked at the house.  She looked at the rubbish in the grass and on the drive and gave a slight chuckle. Whilst she might be a homeowner, there was no way she would be having any extra cash for the next at least year.

Two hours later, Amber was relatively happy that the driveway was clean enough for a skip bin and her ute.  She started in the front yard.  There wasn’t much she could do inside until she had some work area outside cleaned up.  Amber had no intention of crunching over broken glass every time she wanted to leave her house and the only space inside was going to be her living and working area for the next while.  Fortunately, it was spring so she had several months of decent dry and warm weather before it was too cold to work outside during the day.

Amber put her back into the job again picking up bottle after bottle.  But the grassed area out the front was worse than the driveway.  It was like there was a bed of glass.  She was going to need another method to get rid of that.  Perhaps after the skip turned up she would go to the local hardware and ask their advice.

Amber dumped another bag into the growing pile.  She looked up at the sound of a rumbling truck.  It pulled up beside her ute.

“How ya goin’ Luv,” the driver asked her getting out of the truck.  “You Amber,” he asked.

“That’s me and that’s my skip is it,” Amber asked and moved forward, removing one of her gloves to shake his hand.  He gave it a good firm shake.

“My name’s Tom. You got your work cut out with you on this place,” he commented.  “I used to ride past here on my way to school.  We’d all challenge each other to get to the front door without old man Grant getting upset with us and throwing something at us.”  Tom drew a breath before continuing, “Course that all stopped when he started just throwing his bottles out the front. My mate, Jacko almost completely severed an artery one night.  We all just stopped after that.  The poor bugger was not able to walk for three months whilst he healed.” Tom perused Amber with concern.

“Really good quality boots, Really good gloves, I will endeavor to not get cut by broken glass,” Amber told him.

“So you purchased the house, you got someone to help you out,” Tom fished.

“Just me,” Amber replied, her heart tensing.  She wasn’t good on social talk and she certainly wasn’t good at handing out personal information.

“Well if you need a hand or any heavy lifting, I don’t just deliver skip bins, I can do all sorts of jobs, whatever labor you need, I’m good to help and if you need anything else, I know lots of tradesmen and women.”

“Thanks, Tom,” Amber said.

“Well, I’ll get the skip down.  You just give me a call when it’s close to being filled and I can come out and collect it and replace it with another one.”

Amber looked at the pile of bags.  She pulled a weed from the garden and the truck with the skip backed into her driveway a little before Tom lowered the skip onto the ground.  He got out and unhooked the bin and then started lifting the bags into it.

“Thanks,” Amber said and within a few minutes, Amber and Tom had all the bins in the skip.  It was half full.

“You’ll be finished that by the end of the day I reckon,” Tom said.

“Not so sure, it was larger glass on the driveway, the lawn has layers of glass in it.”

Tom went to the edge of where Amber had cleared.

“You probably need a rake and a shovel for this lot.  If you don’t have one there is a hardware on West St.  They’ll help you out.”

“Thanks, Tom.  I might just have a break now and go over and find the hardware,” Amber was tense again and she forced herself to calm her breathing.  She was in this town for good, she had better start being more friendly, Amber lectured herself silently.

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