For the story so far
“Hello,” someone with a friendly older voice called from the back doorway.
“Hi,” Amber said, coming into the kitchen with a box held in front of her. She placed it on the counter. Before her stood a woman who’s voice was much younger than the copious laugh lines on her face.
“I just thought I’d bring over a welcome dinner for you. I cooked it last night but my grandson wasn’t around to drive my husband and I over. You know my husband, he owns the Hardware store.”
“Oh yes. He’s the one who gave me these boxes. Is he here,” Amber took the casserole dish off the woman’s hand placing it in the fridge.
“You just need to reheat the whole thing for about an hour.”
Amber smiled. “Thanks,” she muttered inanely. People usually just sort of ignored her.
Merry and Stan came into the kitchen. Amber shuffled closer to the door to make room.
“I’m Annabel,” the woman introduced herself to Merry and Stan and Amber picked up her box of magazines and headed out of the door. She rounded the corner of the house to here yet another visitor.
“Get me that stupid walker of mine.” The old man from the hardware store waved his walking stick at a tall man. Amber caught his eye and he winked at her, giving her half a smile. The effect was devastating and Amber had an uncharacteristic flash of something.
“There you are.” Stan looked her up and down. “Empty that box.” He ordered Amber. She did. “Roxy here was just telling me how she was going to start dismantling the veranda floor boards tomorrow.”
Roxy gave her a defiant glare.
“Don’t be like that you silly girl.” The old man caught her look. “You are doing a good job on the edging and the garden beds but I’ll be telling you how to do it properly so you can just stop your complaining. I am 88 years old and I still run my own business. I am not some feeble old codger.”
“But you are an old Codger.” Roxy spat back. Amber debated saying something but the other man came back with the walker and shook his head at her, telling her to let it go.
“Here you go, Grandpa Colin. Now I will set it up here so you can keep being bossy. I’m pretty sure Roxy can be equally bossy back.” He strode over to Amber.
“Hi, I’m Maverick MacDonald, the grandchild, and chauffeur to the hellions of my grandparents.” He looked around. “I hope that Gran was still here, but she does love wandering off on her own.”
“She’s in the house talking to my friends.” Amber offered.
“Ah, well welcome to Bright. You have impressed my grandpa and he takes a lot to impress.”
“I bought a rake and a spade from him.” Amber countered.
“You’ve used Tom for your rubbish removal, the local hardware for some tools, you are restoring the old place instead of knocking it down. He likes you. Milli said you were nice, Tom thinks you are a trooper.”
“Seriously, that’s the sum total of people I have said more than five words to in this town. It’s hardly a glowing endorsement.”
Maverick’s eyes got serious. “Indeed. I, for instance, would prefer to know how you are going to pay for the renovations, how long you are planning to stay in town and what sort of job you have to pay for this.”
“Rick, stop it,” Colin called. “You are on your day off, enjoy it. Why don’t you go inside and help? Roxy and I will be a while longer finishing off the garden edging.”
“’Cause you’re a lot of fucking help,” Roxy returned sharply.
Colin tapped her on the leg with his cane. “Young people don’t have any respect these days, stop your swearing and use that spade to get under that edging. We had plenty of rain last week, the soil is still damp. It’s easy digging this time of year.”
“Nice to see you again Colin,” Amber replied.
“You too. I like all the cleaning you have done. Tom said he’s taken two skips of glass to the recycling plant. I guess you’re working on the inside now. I’ll make sure Roxy does this right.”
Roxy glared at him.
“I hate you,” she said. Colin laughed.
Amber left them to it. Colin would be able to handle Roxy just fine.
Amber headed into the house with her empty box. Five boxes were lined up ready for her to empty into the skip.
Annabel was perched on a pile of newspapers reading the headlines out as Merry and Stan filled boxes.
“You should take some of those boxes to the skip dear,” she told her grandson. “I dare say Grandpa is quite happy outside in the garden talking to that sweet young girl out there.
Maverick raised his eyebrow at his grandmother. “Tattoos are illegal to get if you are under 18. By rights, I should be reporting her parents to Child services.”
Stan, Merry, and Amber laughed.
“It’s already been done,” Stan replied firmly. “As long as she’s being polite.”
Amber chuckled, still the hardware man was giving as good as he was getting and he did not seem perturbed by the swearing.
“Why isn’t she in school,” Maverick pressed. Amber felt the walls closing in on her and picked up a box to escape the house.
“She’s been suspended for three days, swearing at a teacher,” Merry replied.
“And so you came here from,” he pushed.
“Melbourne, we came up from Melbourne because we knew Amber had a hoarders house and thought Roxy dear would be better off doing something productive with her time, rather than stewing and fretting. She’s just started at a new school and we want the very best for her this time around.”
That night, at 10pm again with her second skip for the day half full, Amber pulled off the gloves and poured herself a glass of water. The hallway was completely cleared of stuff. They had found a very nice entrance hall coat and hat rack. It needed restoring but it did have a seat so that now Amber could sit.
And that is what she did, sipping her water. The walls of the entrance hall were tongue and groove. The paint so old, that it was impossible to say what the color had originally been. It was colder in this part of the house. A mouse ran in front of her. Tomorrow they would start on the room off the hallway or the staircase, whilst Maverick dropped his grandfather off to instruct Roxy how to rip up the floorboards on the veranda.
Colin and Roxy, by the end of the day, had been firm friends, she’d helped him into his grandson’s 4WD and then returned for the walker he had been sitting on all day. Roxy had announced to everyone that she’d like Colin’s help occasionally, if Maverick could drop him around and that Maverick, himself, he could also help if he had no other things to do, given that Maverick had gotten sick of carting boxes and arguing with his grandmother so he had gone outside and helped Roxy for the last hour before they had left. To finish the conversation she had asked that since Colin wasn’t so bad for an old codger perhaps Stan might like to help her as well.
Tomorrow, Amber would take the green waste to the tip, finish filling the skip with the rotten decking boards and old rusty nails and organising for Tom to remove it.
She grinned as she walked the corridor and stuck her head into the new room that she had found. It was exciting, like undressing a doll that she had always wanted but some how never seemed to get.
Amber finished her drink, rinsed out her glass, dried it and put it away and decided tomorrow that Merry and she should tackle the room behind the kitchen. Perhaps that could be her temporary office until she got everything else sorted out. At her current rate, that room would get cleaned out and then she could go back to work.