The Leaves Are Turning Brown – Chapter 18

As my eyes slowly open, I see the morning sun coming through the curtains, illuminating the room in a soft light. Jules is there next to me, her legs up to her knees exposed and her arm resting on her side.  Sometime in the night she has pushed the duvet down, so her shoulder and back is exposed.  I look along the smooth line of her arm and her leg, taking in the soft form before me.  I pull the duvet up over her shoulder and slip out of bed, sitting up at the desk on the other side of the room.  I look through the drawers and find my old laptop.  Opening the lid it ‘bongs’ into life and displays a login page.

This hasn’t really been my room for about 10 years, and there are all sorts of boxes and piles of stuff cluttering up the edges, along the eaves of the roof, that come down sharply from the centreline of the room.  Most of my keepsakes and memorabilia are still here though, everything I wouldn’t want to lose, kept safe here.

I type in a few passwords and none work.  I stare through the curtains at the light growing behind them.  I try to recall the last time used this machine, and what I was into then.  I wonder if it was the last time I lived here. Yes, it must’ve been.  I type in the memorable word me and my ex used to use a hundred times a day, and the screen unlocks to the desktop.  The wifi connects and I snort about my mum’s reticence to upgrade her router and security settings.

I look through the files and folders, finding some old music, which I play quietly.  I open up the browser and start to search for any clues that can help me.  Initially I’m searching for anything that sounds similar to what I’ve been seeing, what I call ‘glimmers’, for lack of a better name.  Nothing obvious comes up.  I then wonder if I could find out anything about Esther. Someone with the money and resources she has at her disposal must be listed in some register.  I search for the name Esther and other keywords: “mansion”, “aristocracy”, “titles”.  Nothing comes up so I try and look for maps of the area I think I was taken to, for any sign of a large country house. I recall the long chamber room that ran along the front of the house.  I look up images of country houses in England to see if any look familiar.  I never saw the house from the outside, so it is difficult.  Then I see what looks like the type of place I’m searching.  I bring up the map and look at it.  It’s in the right area, it’s the right size.

I open another tab to see if I can find out who lives there, but hear a stirring from behind me.  I look around and see Jules stretching her arms and exposed leg.  She looks towards me and smiles.

“Morning sunshine”. Her hair is a mess, falling all over her face and neck. She looks absolutely lovely.

“Hello there, how’d you sleep?” I ask with a smile, remembering her shoulder and leg, naked over the covers.

“Like a bloody log.  What time is it?”.

I turn around while she dresses and then we head downstairs for some breakfast.  Like all people above a certain age, my mum is already up after staying up late with us last night.  We sit down at the table in the conservatory to toast and tea. I tell my mum it was a last minute decision to come down here, and that we didn’t even bring any toiletries.  She scoffs at me and tells Jules to head down to the shower room near the back of the house, where she’s put out towels and everything she’ll need. Jules wanders down, looking cute as anything with no shoes on and her shirt untucked.  As soon as we hear the shower running mum looks at me, slightly more sternly that before.

“So, what’s going on then?” she asks calmly.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep this from her.

“That girl, down there, is lovely.  Why didn’t you tell me about her? Anyway, why did you have to come down here in the middle of the night? Are you in trouble?”.

I tell my mum about Jules and me being chased, but skirt over the rest of the facts.  I tell her that I got mixed up with some people, they’re not violent, but they do want me.  I watch my mum’s face closely while I tell her all this.  She’s always had an uncanny knack of knowing when I lie, so am very careful to just omit the truth.  While I talk I am listening for the sound of the shower, and when it stops I look at mum, and she understands.

I also shower, putting my own clothes back on, with little alternative. We have another cup of tea with mum and then head out. Stepping from the drive onto the street I look up and down the road several times, looking for anything out of place, but seeing nothing we walk on.  I take the back roads, partly for safety, partly to show off my old stomping ground.  We walk up to the lake and through the park, coming into town from the quiet end.  It’s Friday, so a little busier than most mornings, but most of the people here are workers in the various shops and offices here in town.  We walk along, taking in the sights of the town, the old and new combined in one mecca to commercialism, albeit quite quaint and provincial. I suggest we go and get some clothes, just a fresh outfit or two and Jules beams at me.

“Yeah! Shopping shopping shopping” and she darts off in front of me towards the small indoor centre.  We walk along and she spots a women’s clothing store.  We go in and she starts looking around, observing every rack and hangar.  Much as I like her in the skirt-suit she’s wearing, I am relieved when grabs a pair of jeans and a few tops, to head into the changing room.  I loiter outside, trying not to look out of place and failing miserably.  She comes out wearing one combination, looking lovely.  She goes back in, changes back into her grey suit and we buy the clothes.  We go to at least 3 other clothes shops, picking up a few more tops, some underwear for her.  I blushed like a schoolboy in the lingerie section when she held up something lacy and impractical. It only took one shop to find what I needed, three t-shirts, one pair of jeans, some boxers and socks.  We were done in about an hour, which meant we had time to kill before lunch.

We walked out of the shopping centre looking pleased with ourselves.  Our only chore of the day had been completed, and we were now free to explore.  I took Jules down towards the old ruins, just outside the centre of town. We walked around the old castle, looking up at the piles of rock and rubble, overgrown with grass. There at the base of the mound is a small coffee shop, so we stop in for a brief sit down.  Jules seems cheerful, rested and relaxed after a good nights sleep.  I suggest a few sights that we could wander round and see before finding somewhere for lunch.  She asks what the plan is for this evening. I suggest getting back to mum’s to get changed and then come back out on the town, to hit a few pubs and have some dinner.  She agrees, and we finish our coffee before heading out the door.

This town is small, but has some really tourist-rich attractions, all of which we avoid.  I know the best places to go and see the sights, from behind the rope.  We jump fences and sneak through doorways to get into the best spots, chuckling together as we look down from the balconies that the tourists look up at. We wave down to a group wearing bright coloured plastic jackets, even though it’s clear and not too cold.  I’m enjoying every moment with Jules in this place.  As we run down a flight of stairs someone shouts and we pull into a doorway.  I’m breathing heavily and our faces are close, reflecting the heat backwards and forwards.  I kiss her strong and hard, feeling my lips pushing against hers.  This is the first time we’ve kissed like this, and all the world outside stops and vanishes while we hold each other tightly, kissing passionately.  She turns me around and pushes me against the wall, kissing me deeply all the time.  I feel her body push me backwards, making it difficult for me to move.  The moment is interrupted by a voice, shouting from the stairwell below, that we’re not allowed up here.  We can’t run down, and up just leads to a dead end.  Stuck for an option I shout down to the voice.

“Sorry, we got lost, should we come down?”. I feign a softer and more innocent voice, in the hope that the guard takes us to be lost tourists.  He calls us down and we walk down slowly.  As he sees us walking down meekly he relaxes.  Very kindly, he points us towards the exit of the open area and, as if we thought he was a pushover, adds that we are not to return here today.  Jules squeezes my hand, trying not to laugh, and we walk fast towards the exit. Outside on the street again, I take one look at her face and laugh.  She laughs too and we head down the road.  There is a particular pub I want to take her to.

We walk down the little alleyway that seems to go nowhere, turning right there are a few bins and a metal spiral staircase above.  We walk down and then the front area of the pub comes into view.  I walk in through the small front door, ducking under the beams, Jules just behind me.  The small bar is quiet, with just a few people drinking coffee at the table by the window.  Me and Jules order alcohol because, well, we’re on holiday.  We take our drinks to a small table out the back.  The bright light barely makes it into this hidden garden, making it almost ghostly, with many unoccupied tables and the two of us.

We have a few drinks and then go down the street to a small restaurant. I can feel the alcohol working on me as we eat and talk, and laugh.  I feel light headed, not dizzy, just euphoric.  This is the best day I’ve had in a long time, and it’s all because of the events of the past 7 days really.  If none of the weirdness had occurred, I’d probably be at work stressing over the next time I’d be seeing Jules, if in fact our first meeting had gone that well.  It’s unhealthy to relive the past and imagine alternative negative outcomes, but almost impossible to resist.

Over our lunch together, we talk of many things.  The general theme is what to do now, and whether I am still seeing my glimmers.  I can’t lie to Jules so I tell her that yes, I am seeing them.  What I hold back is that they are everywhere, and have been for the past two days, since we ran from the pub.  I can see the glimmers all over town, all over the places we go to and even places I can only see in the distance.  I don’t tell Jules that when I’ve been focusing on a particular glimmer I can almost see through their eyes, see what they see, feel their thoughts. There’s no way I can tell her about the feeling that I sometimes feel better being in another glimmer’s mind.

I’m a bit drunk now, and I can tell Jules is too.  Our conversation has moved from the here and now to higher planes.  We talk about the meaning of life, about what we think about the afterlife, about our hopes for the future.  Deep stuff to be discussing over ravioli, spaghetti and garlic bread, but at this point it feels like we could be talking through the ingredients of a packet of flour and it would feel important.  There aren’t many times in life that you can talk like this with someone, and the sad truth for me is that this has only happened in the burgeoning youth of a relationship.  All too soon the day to day rigmarole kicks in and you find the conversation turns to utility and necessity.

After lunch we decide we need culture and so head toward the museum. I get us our tickets and we walk in, surrounded by schoolchildren, walking along the aisles of exhibits in little groups, clipboard and pencils in hand.  We walk around, mixing in-between the other visitors, looking at the various weird and wonderful items on display.  I can feel the the buzz of the excitement from earlier wearing off and suggest we head back to get changed.  There is a bus from town to the house, but we walk instead, along the river and then cut across the university sports fields.  We come out near the drive to the house, I keenly observe the cars and general miscellany of the road for anything unusual, but on seeing nothing untoward we head for the house.  It takes moments to walk up the drive and open the door with the keys my mum gave me. Inside feels safe and we both relax. I call out but see a note by the phone.  Mum has gone out for a while, and won’t be back until much later.

We both shower again and then change into our new outfits.  I make Jules laugh by keeping all the tags and labels on my clothes, making me look like a mannequin that wandered off the shop floor.  She looks really attractive in the outfit she has chosen.  We sit in the lounge, overlooking the garden, and enjoy some wine we picked up on the way home.  We are both very giggly by this point, and I stop to push her hair back behind her ear.  She takes my hand and pulls my arm through hers, so our faces are close together.

I’m thinking this whole time about how wonderful it feels, here with Jules, kissing and holding each other.  It’s a total feeling of being carefree, like all the bad things in the world just slip away and we’re surrounded by light.  I open my eyes and see we are surrounded by light.  I can see many glimmers all around me, but they are so close and densely packed that it’s impossible to set one apart form the other.  There are arms, legs, lips, eyes, all slipping through each other, but all of them right here.  The brightness is harsh but bearable and I close my eyes, leaning back in to kiss her lips.  There is light from all around, and warmth from her body next to mine.  This is lovely, just lovely.