For the story so far
Amber rose, as usual before dawn, and ran her Ute out to the tip to get rid of the green waste. Roxy had cleaned out pretty much all of the garden beds and stacked the edging under something Colin had told her was a Japanese Maple.
Then she started cleaning magazines and newspapers off the staircase because then she could sit there as well. Having no seats or tables was starting to grow a little thin. Even in her worse foster home, one she still had the occasional nightmares about, there was a chair to sit on occasionally; somehow that family managed to be allowed to foster 10 children at once. Fortunately Amber had only been there for three months. Perhaps today they would find a table and some chairs in what she hoped was the dining room.
By the time Stan, Merry and Roxy, rocked up, Amber had cleaned off seven stairs. Merry trouped in, followed by the others with boxes of groceries.
“You need food Amber dear,” she announced. “I know you’ve been saving for all those years, but now you have a home, you aren’t sharing with anyone, you can actually keep more than the day’s worth of food in the house. You aren’t going to be moving in a hurry and it’s going to be a good month before you get to renovating the kitchen. You are going to do something modern aren’t you,” Merry asked as the four of them emptied the boxes of groceries.
“Yes, I have vague plans of knocking down the wall between the two rooms and having a big island here,” she indicated the location.
“That would be lovely Amber,” Stan responded. “Roxy and I are going to start on the veranda floor. We stopped at the hardware store and got a jimmy bar and hammer.”
“You didn’t have to,” Amber said quietly, she hated getting given anything. She already felt beholden to Milly and Annabel.
“That’s okay, it’s not a gift. I have the receipt here and you can transfer the money into our account tonight.”
“But not for the food. That is our housewarming gift to you.” Merry insisted.
Amber did not have an opportunity to respond because a car horn tooted.
Roxy ran to the front door and peered out the window. “That’s Colin. What’s he doing getting out of a police car?”
She raced back through the back door and out to the front, Amber followed slower. She hated the police.
“Now I’ll be back to get you in a few hours. Don’t make a pest of yourself Grandpa,” Maverick grinned at Roxy and Amber.
“Morning,” he said.
“Morning, what do you doing, you’re too nice to be a” Roxy paused and didn’t say what she wanted to. Maverick rewarded her with a grin.
“Police officer.” He finished for her. “Don’t sweat it, Roxy, I think you’re pretty nice for a tattoo-toting teenager. When I get back, I won’t be in uniform and you can forget I am a police officer for a while.”
“Yeah, okay then,” Roxy agreed. “Come on Colin, you’ve got to show me how to rip up those floorboards.”
Amber did not say anything. Her shoulders were rigid and she looked ready to bolt. Maverick smiled at her and winked. Amber did not respond. Instead, she reached into her pocket and pulled out her ever-present phone. Maverick turned and she did not look up until she heard the sound of the car door shutting and the motor starting. She had a couple of messages from the only other person in the world she considered a friend.
Amber texted Tom to come around with another skip in a couple of hours and she left Colin to sit on his walker issuing instructions whilst Stan and Roxy lifted floorboards.
“You who, it’s just me Milly,” Milly called as she entered the back door.
Amber came out of the room she was in. “Hi,” was all Amber managed to say because behind Milly was about four teenagers. “We just thought we’d pop down and give you a hand with the cleanout.”
“Um,” Amber stumbled. Merry popped her head out of the hallway.
“That would be fantastic. You have to excuse Amber, she’s a little reclusive.”
“Goes with the house then,” Milly responded. “We’ll get some throwing out done so at least you can have some space. Sam Grant used to have some lovely furniture. It’s probably under all the stuff still.”
“You kids form a production line. I want each of you to pass boxes to each other. One of you goes to the skip, Another halfway between the back door and the skip and another in the kitchen and the fourth one of you at our end. Come on then, snap to it.” Milly paused. “I’m feeling good today and the kids were annoying me so I thought I would put them to good use. I see your sister out the front has gotten Old man MacDonald on her side. That’s pretty hard to do.”
Amber could have corrected her but she didn’t. She liked Roxy. The girl had spunk and initiative. She didn’t shirk from what she had done or why she was suspended. She might think the world was against her but she had guts and Amber liked that.
By the time Stan, Merry and Roxy had left to head back to Melbourne, the front rotten floorboards had been placed in a skip. Colin had insisted that Roxy place aside any floorboard that was still in good condition and she had stacked them beside the garden edging. Colin had been picked up about the same time by another grandchild of his, this one looked only just old enough to have her license. By the time the sun was setting and Milly had packed her tribe up for home, Amber had a dining room complete with an old solid table and six chairs, three of which were pretty rickety, but three were solid. The table was, she was told silky oak but it needed restoring. Tomorrow she would go out and buy a tablecloth to put on it so that she didn’t damage the surface any more than it actually was. Most importantly she would have a space to work from in a couple of days when she officially went back to work.
But first, she studied the piles of books in the last room. At least there were air gaps at the top of these. Sam Grant had eclectic taste. Dollar westerns were slipped in between Modern romances and historicals. She pulled out her phone again. There were more messages, one from her bookkeeper. She surfed the internet until she found the number she was looking for.
“Hi, my name is Amber Smith, look I am not sure who to speak to but I have just purchased the old Grant place on ReDoux Rd.”
“Oh yes, I’ve been told that you are going to renovate it. That’s going to be so nice for the town. There’s a lot of history in that house. I was hoping that the Council would buy it, but I don’t think they wanted to clean out any of the stuff inside.”
“And that’s what I am calling about. I’ve just gotten into one of the downstairs rooms and there are plenty of books there. Based on the rest of the place, some of them are going to be in very good condition. I don’t suppose the Library would like to take them.”
“Oh,” the woman sounded surprised. “Well, we can’t afford to buy them.”
Amber’s hands started to shake a little and she took a big breath. She could do this, she was a business owner after all.
“I was going to donate them for a bit of free labor in getting them out of the house.”
“In that case then that would be amazing. I can make a few phone calls to the Friends of the Library and see if anyone would like to help us get the books. When would you like them gone.”
“As soon as possible. I’m going to get started on it today, but I’ll be still going tomorrow. I’d really like some help tomorrow.” Amber hated asking for help for anything, she hated receiving help. So many people had helped her growing up. She’d been in wonderful families but yet had been so alone.
“I’ll see if anyone is available then. I shut the library early today so I can come around this evening after 6pm if you like. I’ll be able to take at least a load back in my car.”
“That would be great. Can I drop some books off for you today,”
“Sure, Just make sure they don’t have damage. I have to ask though if we already have copies of the books, can the Friends of the Library put them up for sale in our yearly book sale.”
“Absolutely, I don’t mind throwing newspapers and magazines out, but I can’t just dump the books and I spent a lot of time in libraries as a kid, so I am happy to give something back.”
Amber didn’t add that she had gone to listen to the librarians read stories to toddlers. She couldn’t read very well at all until Stan had sat her down and spent hours every day practicing with her. Libraries had been places to go that were warm and friendly, She could struggle through picture books and early readers, hidden in a corner in comfort and no one ever judged her.
Amber stood at the entrance to the book room. She would place anything she wanted to keep in the stairwell for now. It had been cleaned, but mostly she thought she would get rid of the books. Someone else would be able to read them and that was enough for her.